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T.A. Moreland

T.A. Moreland

Good Boys is sort of good. [MOVIE REVIEW]

Twelve-year-old, Max (Jacob Tremblay) has a lot to worry about. He’s invited to his first kissing party and panics because he doesn't know how to kiss. His friend Thor (Brady Noon) convinces him to spy on a teenage neighbor and her boyfriend, to get lessons on how to smooch. So Max, Thor and another friend Lucas (Keith L. Williams) decide to use Max's dad's drone -- which Max is forbidden to touch -- to spy on the couple. Their plan goes awry and the drone gets destroyed. Leading the kids on an arduous adventure to replace the device before Max’s father gets home - while also learning how to kiss.

Good Boys, directed by Gene Stupnitsky, combines coming of age humor with a bunch of crazy events happening in a short period – in this case, one day. A filmmaking style made famous in 1983 by Tom Cruise’s Risky Business. Most of the laughs center on the boys’ swearing and trying to figure out what the purposes of the devices Thor finds in his parents’ bedroom.

The film also touches on serious topics like parental divorce.

But ultimately, Good Boys is just a series of funny screens, but nothing filmgoers need to see right away. It gets a Rent It rating.

Good Boys scores an “A” for cast diversity. This is a highly diverse group in this film. Max’s dream girl is an adorable teen of color. Good Boys is also diverse in character roles. Max’s friend Lucas, the black kid, is not the stereotypical thug. Rather he’s a nerd. A rule follower. The nice guy in the group. Additionally, the Alpha Male, the coolest dude at their school is a petite, Asian American (Izaac Wang).

While Keith L. Williams is a head taller than his two Good Boys co-stars, he’s actually the youngest of the three.

Good Boys is rated “R” for strong crude sexual content, drug, and alcohol material, and language throughout and is 95 minutes in length. Again, no need to take the time and spend the money to see this at the theater. Wait and Rent It.

Luce is a loser [MOVIE REVIEW]

Despite being only a teenager, Luce (Kelvin Harrison, Jr) has had an eventful life. Rescued from a war-torn country and adopted by an American couple, (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth), he becomes an excellent student, stellar athlete, and the pride of his school. But all he has worked for is in jeopardy when one of his teachers (Octavia Spencer) makes a troubling discovery in his locker. The question becomes is Luce the person everyone thought he was or does his teacher have a vendetta against him?

In my rich and varied experiences as a black man in America, I sometimes see films with African American casts and storylines, and I find myself asking, “Who wrote this?” Because in Luce, as in others, the behavior and dialogue lack authenticity. And almost always I find the writers are not people who know the African American experience. And such is the case with Luce, written and directed by Julius Onah, who was born in Nigeria and raised there as well as in the Philippines, Togo and, the United Kingdom. Onah did go to high school in Virginia while his father served as a diplomat in the U.S.

He creates three black teens in the story, Luce, who as the story references, is Obama-like – at least as it appears. The two others are thugs, fighting, swearing – every other word is MF and N. These young men are stereotypes. As a person who has taught and worked extensively with urban youth, I know that young black men are so much more diverse and complicated than this film shows- one good kid, maybe, and two hoodlums.

Octavia Spencer’s character, in addition to being at odds with Luce over the locker incident, has a mentally ill sister who shows up at the school one day and behaves in a disturbing fashion. This entire subplot adds nothing to the film.

Another problem with this story is one which is common in screenwriting when writers use dialogue to share information with viewers. There are discussions between people such as spouses who have been in longterm relationships, revealing information as “new” that any real couple would have talked about before.

Tim Roth and Naomi Watts who play Luce’s parents have a close relationship. But Roth who has no trouble being frank with his wife, states that from the beginning he had apprehensions about adopting Luce. His wife is surprised. But wouldn’t a husband who communicates with his wife have brought up these concerns before delving into the difficult process of adopting a child from another country? Or talked about it sometime in the over a decade and a half they have had Luce as part of their family? These doubts help viewers to understand the father’s view but are not credible because as devoted as this couple is betrayed to be, they would have had this discussion before.

This film shot in grainy 35 MM, leaves some questions about who’s right and who’s wrong in this story. But neither of those issues deflect from the quality of the movie. Luce is done in by its overwhelming lack of credibility.

It’s 109 minutes and R (for language throughout, sexual content, nudity, and some drug use). It gets our lowest rating, “Dead on Arrival!” In other words, skip this film.


Fast & Furious . . . is both! [MOVIE REVIEW]

The story behind the newest edition of this series, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is relatively simple. A virus which threatens all humankind is up for grabs. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) team-up to keep the virus out of the hands of mechanical man, Brixton (Idris Elba). Brixton represents a group that wants to use the deadly serum to weed out those they believe to be inferior. The situation is complicated by the fact that the virus is housed in a capsule implanted in the arm of a British agent, named Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), who also happens to be Shaw’s sister.

Fast & Furious is fabulous. There’s frankly not much new about the storyline. Hobbs and Shaw don’t like each other. It’s not that unusual to have a conflict between guys on the same side. Of course, there has to be eye candy which Vanessa Kirby provides. Like all films of this genre, there’s punching and kicking that would break faces, arms, and legs in real life but of course, in the movies, characters walk away from these battles unscathed. Finally, there are the must-have daredevil car and trucks feats.

The director, David Leitch takes all of this we have seen before and makes it seem new.

There’s a lot of verbiage in this film. Much of it is tied to the bickering between Hobbs and Shaw. There are also lines that are difficult to disgust. When confronted with an unexpected situation, Hobbs says, “What the fresh turkey hell!” If I were Johnson, I would have used my prerogative as a star to rephrase or skip that line all together!

The action is indescribable and is simply a feast for the eyes.

The cast is exceptional. Johnson, Statham, and Elba meld together in a way that leads to the excellent execution of this script. However, Hollywood has been criticized for sexism and ageism especially pertaining to women. Deckard and Hattie are siblings. Childhood photos show that he’s five to six years older than her. However, Statham is actually 21 years older than, Kirby, his onscreen little sister.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw gets an A- for cast diversity. It is strongly diverse except for the absence of prominent appearances by Hispanics.

The film is estimated to have cost a whopping $200 million to produce. It should make that back and more! It’s rated PG-13 and is a lengthy two hours and 18 minutes. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw gets a See It rating!

Stuber Stumbles [What’s The 411 Movie Review]

Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), a mild-mannered sporting goods clerk, moonlights as an Uber driver. When a hardened, veteran detective, (Dave Bautista) crashes his car in hot pursuit of a sadistic, bloodthirsty terrorist, he calls Stu to pick him up to continue the chase. At the same time, Sara (Karen Gillan) the woman of Stu’s dreams, texts him to come over and spend the night with her. For the rest of the evening, Stu is torn between aiding the detective and responding to Sara’s pining for him.

Stuber is a collection of funny scenes which never truly come together as a successful comedy. And it gets a “Rent It” rating. Patterned after highly successful films, such as The Hangover, where individuals endure an unbelievable series of events in one night, Stuber takes viewers through sometimes humorous and almost always implausible incidents. (Like a cop calling Uber to chase criminals.)

Stuber the movie lead characters Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani in Uber vehicle photo courtesy of Walt Disney 710x400

Dave Bautista (left) as the veteran cop and Kumail Nanjiani, as the Uber driver in the movie, Stuber. Photo courtesy of Walt Disney.

The film includes the standard dubious storytelling devices, like ruthless criminals who kill others without hesitation, but when they get the chance to blow the heroes away, they engage in lengthy dialogue, giving the good guys time to figure out an escape or an opportunity for rescuers to arrive.

Kumail Nanjiani is superb in the lead role. He’s so credible as the super nice, very principled guy being held “hostage” to this situation. Kudos to Dave Bautista as well, playing the type of cop that isn’t much different than the bad guys he pursues!

Stuber also gets an “A” for cast diversity. People of every race play lead and supporting roles.

Stuber is rated R for violence and language, some sexual references and brief graphic nudity. It’s 93 minutes in length. No need to see it right now. Wait and “Rent It”.

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